Who knows what?10 June 1998
A recent survey found that education and training in hydro power varies widely from country to country, as Tore Jørgensen* explains
The hydro power sector is becoming increasingly globalised. One reason is the worldwide concern about environ-mental issues. Others are the rising demand for electricity due to the growth of the world economy, and the growing international trade in electricity. These trends call for international co-operation in developing new knowledge. Even more important is the dissemination of knowledge to those who need it.
The challenges are not restricted to technical improvements, but also encompass better decision-making processes and assessment methodologies for upgrading projects, small-scale hydro power, and environmental issues. It was for this reason that the international-energy-agency (IEA) initiated the Implementing Agreement for Hydro power Technologies and Programmes in 1995. The nine countries that have joined this five-year programme co-operate on various sub-programmes, one of which covers education and training. This recognises the significance of structured dissemination of knowledge for the development of the world hydro power industry. An annex task force consisting of Japan, Sweden and Norway is headed by Professor D K Lysne of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The International Centre for Hydro power (ICH) acts as secretariat for the annex.
The objective of the work is to improve education and training (E&T) programmes in hydro power planning as well as in operation and maintenance. As a basis for development of recommendations for the contents of and methods to be used in this kind of E&T, surveys have been carried out. The surveys will create a picture of current international E&T practice in the planning of hydro power schemes and the operation and maintenance of hydro power plants. This article presents the tentative results of the latter study.
To kick off the survey we decided to investigate existing E&T opportunities in the countries of the task force members, ie Japan, Sweden and Norway. The objective of these national status reports was to define the planned level of detail of the main survey, and to determine what is regarded as hydro power-related E&T in the context of the annex. The national reports also reflect differences in practice and type of approach in various parts of the world.
Japan has a decentralised electricity supply system, in which nine regional power companies are responsible for generating and distributing electricity in their own regions as well as for training their own personnel. Training takes place in company training centres on the basis of a set of comprehensive national guidelines and rules which cover surveys, operation, maintenance and management of the whole range of hydro power installations. On-the-job training is a vital element in the training processes.
The major contributors to hydro power E&T in Norway are the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Norwegian Electricity Federation (EnFO). While NTNU offers a full range of university-level courses, covering the different aspects of hydro power technology, EnFO runs a number of short courses on a regular basis. There are 15 university-level courses in hydro power planning, and five short courses and continuing education courses. The equivalent numbers in operation and maintenance are two and 12 respectively.
NTNU also offers a two-year MSc programme on hydro power development, aimed primarily at young engineers from third-world countries. The programme is sponsored by the Norwegian Agency for International Co-operation (NORAD).
The situation in Sweden is very similar to that in Norway. The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Chalmers University of Technology (CTH) offer a number of university-level courses, mainly in electrical engineering, dam construction and turbine technology. In addition, the Luleå University of Technology (LuTU) started a three-year hydro power education programme at university-level in autumn 1997. Jokkmokk Hydro Power Training Centre (JTC) has mechanical and electrical workshops, simulators and a 10.5MW hydro power plant for training purposes (see article, p38). JTC offers 23 short courses on a yearly basis, while the number of university-level courses is 26, including the new LuTU courses. In addition SwedPower offers three advanced six-week training programmes, aimed at managers holding a degree in civil, mechanical or electrical engineering. The programmes are sponsored by the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (Sida).
A wider survey
Based on the experience from this initial investigation a wider survey was carried out, using a combination of questionnaires, personal contacts, meetings and a workshop at Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre, Zambia, with representatives from major power utilities in the sub-Saharan region. A similar workshop will be arranged at the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok in August this year for the Southeast Asian Region (see panel at right). A third workshop in Latin America is in planning.
It is beyond the scope and available resources of the project to produce a complete map of all existing E&T offered in operation and maintenance in the global hydro power sector. These activities take place at universities and technical schools, in organisations and utilities, and are usually integrated into E&T for the electricity generation sector as a whole. The challenge was therefore to produce a representative picture of the current situation.
Although experience is somewhat mixed, as a result of generally low response rates, we decided to utilise questionnaires in the initial phase of the survey in order to establish a dense grid of recipients for subsequent follow-up. As a first step a simple two-page questionnaire was distributed with the aim of establishing a network of contacts among universities, institutions, authorities and utilities involved or interested in hydro power E&T. It contained simple questions about the availability of education or organised training, whether the company offers any kind of in-house training and, if so, to which staff categories, and about the application of maintenance systems. A mailing list of 120 addresses was built up from the personal networks of the task force members. The questionnaire was sent out early in 1997 to a total of 59 countries, including:
Africa: 25 countries
Asia: 15 countries
America: 11 countries
Europe: 6 countries
Australia/New Zealand: 2 countries.
The questionnaire was also made available on the Internet.
The initial response to the phase one questionnaire was 25 answers from 18 countries.
Phase two questionnaire
A phase two questionnaire, produced as a follow-up, was aimed at those who had responded to the first one and who had indicated that in-house training in hydro power operation and maintenance was offered. It asked 14 questions about training procedures, quality assurance (QA) systems and the recruitment situation. The questions were relevant for utilities and organisations operating hydro power stations.
So far, we have obtained information from 48 organisations in 35 countries. There is reason to believe that some relevant E&T activities of interest to this investigation have not yet been identified. Nevertheless, the survey has revealed an overall situation which we believe is representative of current opportunities. Our policy of employing simple questionnaires with a few, rather superficial questions in order to encourage a higher response rate has of course limited the amount of specific, detailed information. On the other hand the survey clearly demonstrates the lack of E&T available in many countries. Not surprisingly the situation is most satisfactory in what we may call ‘mature’ hydro power nations with a long history of active hydro power development, such as Canada, France, Sweden and Norway.
One positive outcome of the survey was the power companies’ willingness to acknowledge the importance of in-house training irrespective of region (around 80% of the total number of responses; see table). While operators were the main target group for such training, engineers and managers also seem to be regularly offered in-house training.
The 87% score on the question as to whether maintenance systems are used should also be regarded as positive, since it points to a high level of ambition for power station operation. This, together with an active attitude to in-house staff training, creates a good platform for adopting future E&T recommendations, for instance as a result of this project.
The results of the survey will form part of the basis for the next task, which will be to develop recommendations and methods for E&T in hydro power operation and maintenance. The results have been compiled in a draft report which contains more details of the responses to the questionnaires, as well as a selection of the current E&T activities at universities, schools and organisations which were identified by the investigation.
The draft report will be revised on the basis of supplementary information which we expect to collect during the workshops and via other sources. The draft report and the report on existing E&T opportunities in Japan, Sweden and Norway are available upon request from ICH. A parallel investigation on the E&T situation in hydro power planning has been carried out and will be reported on by mid-1998.